So, having watched the videos I missed last time, it hasn’t changed any of my original impressions. It’s still pretty awesome but comes with some limitations & provisos that some people (here at least) might miss.
Fabric Engine can be used at two different levels - the “universal plugin” level and the “universal engine” level.
FabricEngine - Universal Plugin:
At this level, FabricEngine has basically implemented what I am trying to do for/with Blender (but am taking way to long to get done). Namely, it provides a generic API & libraries for people to write their own geometry generation, deformation, animation, import/export, etc tools. They also supply the “integration layer” for the main DCC applications on the market (that don’t require GPL compliance).
Essentially what this allows is for a third-party developer to write a plugin (in C/C++ or their KL scripting language) that can be loaded on Maya, Max, XSI, and any other host software that FabricEngine developers have implemented a host library for. Instead of writing a city or building generator that can only be used on Maya or 3DS Max, the plugin can now run on ALL supported FabricEngine platforms. That awesome muscle deformer plugin will work for ALL the DCC suites. That crowd simulation engine no longer requires Maya to run. And so on.
In a hypothetical world where FabricEngine were willing to make their API & integration code GPL-compatible (say MIT or Apache licensed), that would enable them or another developer to create the host code for Blender such that we too could use FabricEngine plugins. Sadly, that’s unlikely to happen.
FabricEngine - Universal Engine:
The biggest thing to realise about FE is for the “cross-platform, cross-software” benefits to be realised, you need to have it replace the guts of your DCC software. If you want to have that same rig work on Maya, Max, and other FE2 “hosts” - it needs to be completely implemented inside the Fabric Engine plugin(s). It’s not going to give you AD’s Biped in Blender or CGCookie’s Anna rig in Maya.
Depending on what you do & how you do it, this may not be a big issue. However, if you intend to use FE this way, you have to start considering that you DCC software is simply a highly functional (and somewhat expensive) “skin” to the FabricEngine’s guts. Good for large studios with teams using diverse software setups… not so great when the FabricEngine happens to not have a plugin you need.
I think FE will get great traction on this level from the medium to large studios that contract out animation & rigging jobs to the cheapest they can get away with. After all, if the rig is implemented in FabricEngine and the keyframes fed into it are the same - who cares if they did it on 3DS Max, Maya, or XSI? If the output to the renderer is the same - you’re golden. For smaller teams that rely on tools that come with their DCC software to speed things along (e.g. 3DS Max’s Biped) - it’s not going to provide a much bang for your buck.